What Is Technology?


A specialized kind of knowledge that can be creatively applied to organized tasks involving people and machines to meet sustainable goals. It is a broad and complex field that encompasses understanding how people and their environment interact with technology to shape it, as well as the process of developing and implementing new technologies to improve the quality of life.

Unlike science, which focuses on necessity and universality, technology concerns itself with contingencies and specifics; it is inherently deliberative. As a result, the development of new technologies is usually a step-by-step process where each stage validates and tests the previous one. It is rare that an initial idea becomes a finished product.

Every engineering design operates within constraints, some of which are fixed: physical laws, economic (only so much money is available), political (local, state, and national regulations), social (public opposition), ecological (likely disruption of the natural world), and ethical (disadvantages to people, risks to future generations). Reaching a reasonable compromise among these design criteria is what defines technology.

In the hands of human beings, technological inventions can have profound and far-reaching effects. Consider these examples: Stone tools and flintlocks changed the course of history; sanitation and preventive medicine revolutionized health care; gunpowder made war possible; and microprocessors revolutionized how people write, bank, conduct research, operate businesses, communicate, and so forth. These and many other transformations are the legacy of the scientific and technological revolution. These and other technological advances continue to affect the lives of individuals, businesses, governments, and societies around the world.